The Miami Hurricanes packed for a long trip to the College World Series as evidenced by the multiple suitcases and bags players and coaches somberly loaded onto a U-Haul truck bound for the airport Tuesday morning.
This trip to Omaha was the shortest in 37 years by the Hurricanes as they were the first team eliminated from the CWS as they went winless for just the second time — and first since 1979 — in 25 appearances here.
For players such as Zack Collins, Willie Abreu, Bryan Garcia and Brandon Lopez, Monday’s 5-3 loss to UC Santa Barbara marked their final game in the orange-and-green.
Collins, who was the 10th overall pick in the MLB draft earlier this month, said he would have liked to delay his expected signing with the White Sox with an extended stay in Omaha.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“We made it here, we’re one of the top eight teams and we should be proud of that,’’ Collins said before boarding the team bus.
“Every team has the goal of getting to Omaha and then getting hot once you’re there. Obviously it stinks going out like this. We wanted to win the whole thing. I’ve enjoyed my time here. It has been the greatest time in my baseball life. Now it’s time to move onto the next one. It’s every kid’s dream to make the next step.’’
A highly-touted recruiting class brought in by coach Jim Morris and his staff in 2013 made it to Omaha in consecutive years, but many will be leaving.
The Hurricanes will have a different look next season.
“It was a junior-dominated lineup and a lot of these guys won’t be back next year,” Morris said.
“I’m proud of the way they played. They worked very hard. We need a big recruiting class because we didn’t bring a lot of guys in this past year. We have to bring some guys in. We’ll make the best team we can.”
A big chunk of the Miami power will be headed to the pros as Collins and Abreu (sixth round, Colorado) move on.
Morris also expects junior closer Bryan Garcia (sixth, Detroit), shortstop Brandon Lopez (10th, Minnesota), starter Danny Garcia (15th, Seattle) and outfielder Jacob Heyward (18th, San Francisco) to sign after being drafted.
“Baseball is a tough game and the best team doesn’t always win,’’ Abreu said. “I think we earned a lot of respect around the country for getting here in back-to-back years and it’s something we need to get used to as a program. This team is going to be great next year and I’m excited for them. I’m a big fan. I can’t put into words what this university has done for me.”
Miami is hoping for a strong recruiting class to enroll later this summer although Stoneman Douglas slugger Colton Welker has already signed with the Rockies.
The Hurricanes will bring back ace Michael Mediavilla with Frankie Bartow expected to replace Bryan Garcia as Miami’s closer.
Pitchers Andrew Cabezas and Jesse Lepore should also be back.
The Hurricanes expect returns from five of the nine who composed Miami’s lineup in Omaha including leadoff hitter Carl Chester and infielders Christopher Barr, Johnny Ruiz and Edgar Michelangeli.
“It’s frustrating, we had high hopes and high expectations for ourselves,’’ Mediavilla said.
“After a few days, we’ll regroup and start getting ready for next year. If you get to Omaha, it’s a good year. How far you go makes it great. We’ve raised the bar for next year.’’
As TCU did this year, the Hurricanes will be gunning for a third consecutive trip to Omaha when their season kicks off next February.
“I always look back at 1999 when we lost everyone from the 1998 team,” Morris said.
“[Pitcher] Lazaro Gutierrez was one of the last guys to sign and did so because he didn’t think we would be that good. Then we won it all with all those young guys. You never know in college baseball.”